Origin in Helmsley has a lot going for it, it could just do with an extra pair of hands or two, writes Elaine Lemm. Pictures by Jo Dodsworth.

Origin, Helmsley
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Eighteen months ago I wrote about my visit to Origin in Haxby; it was a filthy January night, the place was empty, and I worried for owners and business partners chef Phil Veal and Maria Rodriguez.
Was the large-village-cum-small-town ready for their concept and how
could they possibly sustain the pressure of only the two of them running the place – which is not easy for even the most experienced operators? Well, they
didn’t, after several hard-working
months they closed, and all went

Then, up they popped again over on Instagram announcing a new place,
this time in Helmsley; these two don’t
make it easy for themselves as the
busy town nestling on the fringes of the North York Moors is not short on eating places, so competition for those much-needed bums-on-seats is fierce.
This time the place was busy, it was a Saturday night, and in June, so I would have been doubly concerned if it was empty once again. Like Haxby, they have kept the décor simple and stylish. It’s a long room which stretches back, with tables clustered nearer the front thus leaving a void defunct of any noticeable purpose. All of this is a little odd, especially as we had to shoehorn ourselves into our seats when a better use of the room would provide plenty of space for everyone.
Paul is cooking away all on his lonesome in a smart open kitchen as Maria bustles around taking care of pretty much everything else. Their menu is a complete change from Haxby and its three quirkily named dishes. This one comes much easier to understand and follows a small plates theme, a style of food which is starting to become just a tad annoying in its popularity with chefs, not all of whom can pull it off.
Here, the menu theme jumps variously from Spanish – no doubt born from Maria’s Galician roots – a quick flash of the sub-continent with a few British ingredients thrown in. Prices are reasonable at £4.50 for plates such as sourdough bread and Chorizo butter, Padron peppers or a broad bean and garlic hummus, all sizeable enough to share. Slightly more substantial and more filling dishes are from £5-£8, and more significant again, no more than £12.
We settle on range across the menu, but our chosen sourdough has already finished (it’s only 7.30?) so we share Rotis, which are lovely and soft with a lovely slightly charred finish which works well with a creamy Dukkah flavoured dip and an acidic powerful lime pickle.
A plate of four Waterloo cheese and piquillo pepper croquettes is excellent, and though the soft buttery cheese is on the point of melting, it is held together well in a crisp crumb. These were, for me, the best plate of the night seconded only by a superb plate of two squeaky fat, perfectly cooked scallops with Balti spices.
Chef seemingly must have needed a little breathing space to keep things moving along in the kitchen as we are offered a plate not ordered, of rather good if not a little salty smoked trout while waiting for our cured cod korma. I will admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this dish, something mildly spiced with he cod to be like cured salmon; it was, just firmer, chewier and the spicing so mild it was indiscernible. This dish was underwhelming, and perhaps more robust spicing would better suit the meaty fish?
Overwhelming was two tender skewered pork pinchos with a tremendously flavoured salsa verde quickly making up for any earlier disappointment.
The meal did, sadly, fall off the cliff with the pudding, which was such a shame. I am not a massive dessert fan but give me churros and some chocolate and I am happy. These, unfortunately, didn’t please, they were doughy, heavy and with a slightly oily mouthfeel. The chocolate mousse and salted caramel for dipping looked like a rather ominous soft, brown splat on the side which sent my imagination reeling, if you get my meaning.
So, this was a dinner of highs and a few lows and not quite as up as the meal at Haxby but by no means a disaster. I would implore Phil and Maria to seriously consider a little extra help – even just for washing up, or the tables which when not cleared after guests leave made the place look uncared for when it is very much loved.
Maria can then spend more time with customers as she is an incredible hostess and Phil is an excellent chef too, but I can’t help feeling he also needs that extra pair of hands.
Then, all that’s needed is that extra space around the
tables, and we will all be happy.
■ Origin Helmsley 23 Bridge St, Helmsley YO62 5BG, 07973 509794. Open: Wed – Fri 6pm-9pm; Sat noon-2pm & 6pm-9pm.

About The Author

Following a successful career as a chef and restaurateur, Yorkshire's Elaine Lemm is a highly respected food and drink writer and recently voted one of the top 50 in the UK. Elaine is a member of the Guild of Food Writers and author of three books,The Great Book of Yorkshire Pudding, The Great Book of Rhubarb and The Great Book of Tea.

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